Listen to “White Noise” by Fred Smith
The last time I watched a movie about whales was…never. I did buy a Judy Collins album years ago titled, “Whales and Nightingales” that featured a duet of whales singing with Judy in a beautiful piece, “Farewell to Tarwathie.” It was haunting, but I had not thought about it in years until speaking last week for a small conference attached to a much larger gathering in Dallas: EarthX. For almost a decade Trammell Crow has hosted thousands of advocates from around the world to address environmental issues and organize for change. During one of the sessions, we viewed the short documentary, Sonic Sea. Using the plight of whales as the centerpiece, it illustrates the growing noise pollution in the oceans due to commercial shipping, the use of sonar, and seismic testing. The changes are so drastic that the noise caused just by ships is changing the environment that whales and other sea creatures need to survive.
Ninety percent of globally traded goods are transported by vessels which are generating an ever-present and increasing acoustic “fog” that masks natural sounds. Ships tend to produce low-frequency sounds that can spread over huge distances and is the most common source of ocean noises. Those noises are, sadly, the same frequency as the whales use to communicate with each other. While not directly lethal, they are disrupting the ability of the whales to find food, mates, and avoid predators. Animals depending on hearing the voices of others are confused, vulnerable and disoriented.
I’ve thought this week about how our own environment creates similar noise and is obscuring the Truth from us. As the noise of a ship muffles the hearing of a whale by being on the same frequency, the world around us does not shout to be obvious or whistle to get our attention. It locates and appeals to us at our natural frequency to conceal the voice of God and others closest to us.
If you have trouble sleeping, you can buy a machine that produces “white noise.” By generating 20,000 frequencies of sound that effectively mask any single tone, it works by adding multiple sounds at the same level but not trying to overpower or to eliminate a particular sound. It simply makes it one of thousands until your ear loses its ability to pick it out from all the others. It doesn’t go away but is absorbed and the effect is, hopefully, sleep.
We use white noise for sleep and so does Satan. He lulls us into spiritual sleep with it. We lose our ear for God.
Sin does not shout. It is not shrill. It does not want to be the only sound we hear. Instead, using our frequency and masking the other voices in our lives, it muffles the voice of God. Satan does not eliminate God’s voice or we might notice not hearing it and be startled into looking for it. No, he simply makes it one of many and it is lost.
We also live with “white noise” in the form of a heavy blanket of lies and half-truths. Journalist Laurie Penney writes: “False news sells because false news is what people want to be true. Twisted news generates clicks because people click on things they want to believe. Clicks lead to ad revenue, and ad revenue is currently all that is sustaining a media industry in crisis. Journalism is casting about for new funding models as if for handholds on a sheer cliff. This explains a great deal about the position in which we find ourselves as citizens in this toxic public sphere.”
We endure a constant barrage of lies from all sides and it has an effect, doesn’t it? I read this from Hannah Arendt:
”If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. On the receiving end, you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such people, you can then do what you please.”
And, like whales, by no longer hearing and communicating with each other we lose our way. We don’t know where we are. We cannot detect predators. In desperation, whales beach themselves when they are completely disoriented by the disabling noise. In the same way, we run aground as individuals and nations when we have lost the ability or the desire to think, believe, judge, and hear what is true.
*Art by Rlon Wang